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Copyrights Entertainment and Sports Law Litigation

In Decision of First Impression, Court Decides ‘Gap Grants’ Can Be Terminated Under §203 of U.S. Copyright Act

In the 1976 Copyright Act, Congress inserted a termination right for authors or their successors for pre-January 1, 1978, assignments of copyrighted works. However, the legislators didn’t directly address a key issue: how to determine termination rights for what are known as “gap grant” works — that is, those created post-1977 under copyright assignments made before then.

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In the 1976 Copyright Act, Congress inserted a termination right for authors or their successors for pre-January 1, 1978, assignments of copyrighted works (see, 17 U.S.C. §304) and for post-1977 copyright-assignment grants (see, 17 U.S.C. §203). Section 203 allows for termination of copyright grants after 35 years, while §304 provided termination from 56 years after a copyright was initially secured or on January 1, 1978, whichever occurred later. However, the legislators didn’t directly address a key issue: how to determine termination rights for what are known as “gap grant” works — that is, those created post-1977 under copyright assignments made before then.

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